Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Allegheny County Leads in Able Account Enrollment

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Allegheny County Leads in Able Account Enrollment

Article excerpt

Allegheny County leads in the number of checking and investment accounts for people with disabilities. Six months after the ABLE program's launch, county residents account for 87 of the 647 accounts in Pennsylvania.

However, state treasurer Joe Torsella thinks there should be many more. He wants to increase awareness among the 800,000 eligible individuals in the state who could use the accounts to save and easily withdraw money without losing state and federal benefits.

On Thursday, Mr. Torsella toured Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh in Uptown and the Human Engineering Research Laboratories in East Liberty. The Pittsburgh visits were the first of a series by the treasurer to learn more about living with disabilities and to promote ABLE bank accounts.

The creation of ABLE accounts followed 2014 federal legislation that allowed states to manage the accounts. Previously, clients who had more than $2,000 on hand could become ineligible for disability programs such as Supplemental Security Income.

Pennsylvania made ABLE accounts available in April and by June, 244 accounts totaling nearly $600,000 had been set up. Today, the 647 accounts total almost $2 million.

Jack Stollsteimer, deputy state treasurer for consumer programs, said that Pennsylvania is a leader in the number of ABLE accounts and the amount of money under management.

"I'm thrilled with where we are with ABLE, but so many people don't know about it," Mr. Torsella said.

Erika Petach, president of Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services, said she has been waiting for a program like this one. Parents' greatest fear is for the security of their children with disabilities, she said.

Mr. Torsella speculated that ABLE's quick growth in Allegheny County may be related to the quality of programs and the community network. However, many families and individuals are skeptical of simply handing over their money.

"There's a lot of suspicion to overcome," he said, adding that people are especially defensive when it comes to financial programs. …

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